3/2017: East Pacific Crossing

3/16 [Day 1]

Left La Paz around noon and motored in pleasant conditions to Ballandra for the night to decompress from the preparation. Nice, relaxing afternoon and evening.

3/17 [Day 2]

Left Ballandra 6am in Corumuel conditions. Sailed through the Canal de San Lorenzo, caught a Bonito, then the wind died and eventually came back up from the southeast as we passed through the Cerralvo channel and passed Punta Arena de La Ventana. Saw a whale repeatedly tail slapping here. Later in the day conditions calmed back down. Motored throughout the day with both engines to test them.

3/18 [Day 3]

Motored in calm conditions to Cabo San Lucas, arriving 9am. Saw one whale, briefly. Provisioned in Cabo and then left in the afternoon. Conditions were sporty right from the start, ~20kt from the west and headed south to avoid having to beat. The wind gradually swung around to the NW so that we could maintain a beam reach while heading the correct direction, but maintained its strength through the night.

3/19 [Day 4, 21:37N, 110:27W]

Winds slacked off slightly to the high teens, pleasant beam reach throughout the day. Gradually adjusting to life at sea, nothing major happened.

3/20 [Day 5, 19:56N, 112:20W]

During the night winds increased to low 20s, battery charge was an issue and autopilot lost control a few times. Once in the early morning we ended up in irons after this happened and I started both engines to get us out of this. Unfortunately our fishing lines ended up tangled in the starboard propeller as a result, and we sailed through the day without doing any more fishing. Winds steadily declined through the day, at the end we were on a broad reach in the low-mid teens. We’d seen several boats up to this point but I think the morning of this day was the last we would see another boat on the radar for a while.

3/21 [Day 6, 18:30N, 113:56W]

In the morning winds were still moderate so we dropped sails and I went swimming to clear fishing lines from the propeller. Winds increased later but varied between mid and high teens throughout the day. Late in the day winds shifted back and I tried to set up a whisker pole for the genoa. After messing around with this for a bit we abandoned the attempt and went back to a broad reach for the night. Winds slacked off at night and we adjusted course 20 degrees away to stay on a broad reach.

3/22 [Day 7, 17:22N, 115:38W]

In late morning I put the genoa on a whisker pole, then set up the free flying jib on the starboard side using our second pole and dropped the mainsail. Later on I needed to lower the free flying jib and got some rope burn on my hand due to poor technique; at the same time the whisker pole’s line attachment point broke. I tried experimenting with a new technique, putting the jib inside one of the spinnaker’s socks and trying to raise it that way, but the sailcloth was too heavy and the the sock opening broke while pulling it down over the sail. This was all pretty stressful and I wasn’t handling it very well, but calmed down and in the afternoon set up the jib again while paying close attention to avoid issues. In the evening winds built to the low 20s. Early in the night the foreguy on the jib’s whisker pole broke, and I went forward and set up a new and heavier duty line in its place. Also, during the afternoon a support for a floor opening in the writing room broke; I tried fixing this, but it broke again late in the evening.

3/23 [Day 8, 15:31N, 117:13W]

Strong winds throughout the day. During the night Lisa furled the genoa completely; we played with unrolling it a bit but eventually in the afternoon we dropped the free flying jib and partially unfurled the genoa. Winds built in the afternoon to the high twenties, with the largest seas I’ve ever been in. Going downwind was comfortable, though, especially if we didn’t look outside. Caught a bonito in the morning.

3/24 [Day 9, 14:12N, 118:57W]

Winds dropped during the night to the mid teens. During the day the seas mellowed as well and we had wonderful sailing most of the day, 6 knots and a gentle motion.

3/25 [Day 10, 12:37N, 120:34W]

Another day of great winds and smooth sailing. Put up the asymmetrical spinnaker for several hours in the afternoon but took it down in the afternoon so we could have more practice using it in the daylight before using it at night. In the evening I was in the writing room and heard a flopping noise above, came up and found a flying fish on the deck, still alive, and threw it back in the ocean (lots of dead flying fish on other mornings).

3/26 [Day 11, 10:57N, 122:12W]

More great sailing. Ran the spinnaker for much of the day, then back to the free flying jib in late afternoon. Got a small burn on my back from leaning against the stove while in the kitchen.

3/27 [Day 12, 9:19N, 123:53W]

Winds were in the high teens in the morning so we stayed with the free flying jib. We started seeing rain showers on the radar and got a light sprinkling of rain in the afternoon. After dark winds steadily built to the mid-20s and then it started raining. We furled the genoa completely, but then had a gear failure (it appears the whisker pole on the free flying jib just snapped) in the middle of the night. I went forward in the rain to wrestle the free flying jib down and got it back into the cockpit with Lisa’s help — it was like taking a lukewarm shower and left me feeling refreshed afterwards.

3/28 [Day 13, 7:47N, 125:21W]

It rained through much of the night and stopped soon before dawn. In the morning conditions were pretty nice, and with the wind shifting toward the east I moved the genoa and our surviving whisker pole to the starboard side and we continued on a broad reach through the day. In the late afternoon a squall moved over us, giving us ten minutes of moderately heavy rain and a little more wind before it moved on. In the evening a fair number of other squalls were visible on the radar, one brushed by us and drizzled a little.

3/29 [Day 14, 6:11N, 126:45W]

At the start of my 4:00 watch Lisa told me to check out the port engine room which had some water in it. Sure enough, the water came up nearly to the base of the engine; a wiring connection had broken which prevented both the pump and the high water alarm from working. I connected the wires by hand to pump out the bilge and then fixed the connection, but this was a good lesson in the need to verify that these pumps are working as designed. Winds were lighter (low teens) and in the morning I put up the mainsail, one reef at first but then put in the other two reefs when Lisa got concerned. The radiofax charts for the next couple days changed this morning and now predicted the ITCZ would set up in our path in the next day (previously it hadn’t forecast any strong ITCZ anywhere). We started both engines and turned south to minimize the time we would spend in the ITCZ and to cross it more to the east where it seemed like it would be weaker. There were squalls around through the afternoon (though none hit us) but only a few during the night.

3/30 [Day 15, 3:47N, 127:06W]

We continued on south using both engines. In the late morning it felt like we had passed the ITCZ — skies were clear and sunny, there was some southeast wind, and no squalls had been seen on the radar for several hours. Around noon we turned off one engine and resumed our southwest course towards Nuku Hiva. Conditions continued to be mellow through the day, we tried sailing for a little bit but were only going about four knots so turned the engine back on. The engine promptly overheated and generated a lot of smoke in the engine room, so I shut it down and used the other one for the rest of the evening and night. Several squalls came up in the evening which we were able to dodge.

3/31 [Day 16, 2:16N, 128:30W]

In the morning I went into the starboard engine room to see what caused it to overheat the previous afternoon. Overnight I’d come to the conclusion it was probably a V belt issue (the alternator hadn’t been working either, and this seemed the only thing that could explain both problems). It was indeed a V belt issue, as the belt had been torn apart (causing the smoke yesterday) after the bolt connecting the alternator to the engine sheared. Dealing with this bolt was a gigantic headache; the rest of the bolt was still in a little tang and I could not get it to budge with penetrating oil, heat, easy-outs, etc. After breaking off an easy-out in the bolt I managed to drill a hole all the way through the bolt, and then broke the drill bit off too. I then used a dremel to cut off the back of the tang and expose the hole the bolt was in; this let me clear the drill bit and start drilling the hole out using larger bits. After breaking several bits I finally got the hole out to 1/4″ (from its original 3/8″) and called it good, installing a new and smaller bolt and getting the engine running again. This procedure took up most of my time over seven hours; while all this was going on we were motor sailing on the other engine in gentle conditions and making good time.

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